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Tools for Personal Transformation: The Mirror of Relationships
Once we recognize that the world is a projection of our consciousness, we also recognize that the only way to change the world in a meaningful way is to bring about a shift in our own consciousness. The world is a mirror in every moment, in every situation, in every circumstance and in every relationship. Each of us inhabits a private world, though our private worlds are enmeshed with each other to create a consensual reality.
The mirror of relationships becomes an important tool for personal transformation and, ultimately, social change as well. There is one simple principle to follow: Those whom we love and are emotionally attracted to, and those whom we are distressed or repelled by emotionally, are both mirrors of our own self. We are attracted to those people in whom we find traits that we have and want more of, and we are repelled by those in whom we find traits that we deny in ourselves.
Think of a person in your life, say, a beloved aunt or a public figure you find immensely admirable. Write down the traits that you find attractive in them. You possess these traits as well; you only need to actualize and manifest them more in your life. Similarly, write down the traits of a person who distresses you emotionally. He or she is definitely not the person you want to spend a weekend in Hawaii with.
Understand that these traits are contained in you also. They may not be obvious to you, but they are frequently obvious to others who know you well. These negative traits are brought to the surface when you are under stress. By becoming more aware of the traits we admire in others, we help augment and manifest those abilities in our own life. When we recognize that the characteristics that repel us in others are within us too, then we defuse the power which those shadow traits hold on us in that state of denial. We accept the wholeness of ourselves in compassion and create a different relationship than before.
Exercise in action
Years ago, I was confronted by a woman in a seminar who insisted on three hours of my time. I told her that, in the midst of all the other people’s needs here, it was impossible for me to give her that much of my personal time. She became furious and yelled, “Then why do you write books that say anything is possible?” She continued to verbally abuse me in front of the group.
Later, when I had a moment alone, I realized that, because of the situation’s emotional effect on me, I needed to take a closer look. I wrote down all the traits about her that bothered me. I listed: rudeness, impatience, anger and aggressiveness. I phoned my wife, told her what I was doing and asked if she ever noticed these traits in me. There was a long silence on the other end. In that moment, I realized that I, too, could display those unpleasant traits when under pressure.
Once I accepted that I possessed these traits, and accepted that I had both positive and negative qualities, I also accepted that the same was true of everyone else as well. We all are some combination of saint and sinner. This had two effects: I was less judgmental about myself and, in turn, I was also less judgmental of others. Recognition of our shared humanity, with all its various displays, brings forth compassion. From that time forward, my relationship with this woman dramatically improved. It wasn’t because I spoke or behaved differently, but because I was no longer radiating, even in subtle form, those unpleasant traits.
The world we experience is a projection of our consciousness, with all of these different positive and negative qualities. So, when we transform our consciousness through insight and compassion, we change that projection of the world, and that means our experiences and relationships change as well.
Despite knowing the nature of a relationship, and how it is a mirror in every moment, I still find myself occasionally feeling personally offended or reacting with self-righteousness. However, I’ve noticed over the years that, even when I strongly disagree with people and dislike what they do, I have less and less of a dislike for them as individuals. I continue to find opportunities to learn how to separate disliking people’s actions from the people who perform those actions.
You and your mirror
This is slow, patient work but, over time, it has the cumulative effect of bringing more ease, comfort and spontaneity into every aspect of life. Don’t be so hard on yourself that you can’t change yourself instantly.
A useful exercise is to bring to mind those people who elicit in you a strong emotional charge in one way or another. Write down all the positive and negative qualities that you have identified in them. (You may be attracted or repelled by a quality, but if there is no emotional charge associated with it, then it is not acting as a mirror for you.) Mix up all these pieces of paper with the various qualities written on them, put them in a circle and, underneath that circle, write “that’s me.” Say to yourself, “Thank you God for making me so interesting.”
The secret to accepting the world and changing it is to accept yourself as you are, right now, in all your diverse, contradictory splendor. With that acceptance comes compassion and gratitude. A change in relationships follows and, from that, change in the world follows automatically.